Today marks a key day in video game history: Doom was unleashed upon the world. In celebration of twenty years, here’s a look back at the game, and why it was so important.
The First FPS
Doom wasn’t the first FPS to hit the market, but it was the first FPS to make an enormous splash, the first to show the genre as something more than a one-off. It was arguably the right game at the right time: PCs were on the verge of being everywhere, and Doom was simultaneously demanding enough to need a modern PC while being simple enough to pick up, as a game, to be addictive. It helped that computers were being dumped on worker’s desks every day in 1993; inevitably, Doom came to the workplace.
It was also different from the genres and characters most people associated video games; in 1993, Nintendo and Sega dominated the console landscape, and the platformer was still king on consoles. In many ways, Doom was gaming for… well, not adults, really; arguably the game’s tendency towards splatter set the age range for PC gaming somewhere around tenth grade for a little too long in the minds of some. But it was a game that consoles couldn’t match at the time, in terms of content or technologically.
It helped that the game was one of the first to draw a substantial modding community, ranging from inserting other copyrighted characters into the game to complete reconstructions. Some of them are still going on today, such as Brutal Doom.
And, of course, it made id Software what it was, and defined, in many ways, PC gaming for the rest of the twentieth century. But what about afterwards?
The Twenty-First Century
Doom rather quickly became a fad, especially as Doom II saw even more success. Fortunately, the media crossovers were mostly limited to novels, which actually have their merits as pulpy horror fiction, but as id Software moved on to other games, some bad ideas inevitably crept in. The Doom Comic, for example, is legendary in how bad it is, although you really have to see it for yourself to understand just how bad. And the movie, if nothing else nice can be said of it, at least made an effort to put an essentially plotless game on the screen as faithfully as possible.
In games however, Doom 3 got deserved critical praise, especially for making an effort to make the series more horrific and disturbing, and sold well, even though it arrived a decade after Doom II and practically a century in terms of changes to gaming. Doom 4 seems to continue the trend; it’s still in development, albeit for less-than-spectacular reasons.
Twenty years on, Doom has settled into an odd elder statesman role in gaming. It’s one of an elite few of games that’s ported to anything that can possibly run it; you can play Doom on calculators, on your smartphone, and pretty much anywhere else. The game itself still sells regularly. In short, where there’s gaming, there’s Doom, and that seems unlikely to change. Here’s to twenty years more!